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By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 22nd July 2014 at 4:00 pm
As you know, we can’t always be everywhere, so that’s when mates come in handy: we couldn’t be at annual Scottish mega festival T in the Park this year, but our friends from down under at The AU Review were present and they filmed this lovely bit. Model Aeroplanes, who were a wonderful discovery of mine in the summer of 2013, filmed this acoustic version of their track ‘Whatever Suits You Better’ – in the Scottish sunshine, no less! – for our Aussie buds. Watch the performance below.
This original feature on The AU Review ran here. Everything Model Aeroplanes on TGTF, including my interview with the Dundee lads at Liverpool Sound City 2014, is right this way.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 22nd July 2014 at 2:00 pm
Despite what some people think, seeing a band at SXSW might not be the best experience you have with them. Maybe the mix wasn’t right, or it was being squished in like sardines among people who may or may not have cared to see the band in question back in March of this year for SXSW 2014? Whatever the reason was, I just didn’t enjoy myself seeing Royal Blood during their slot at the BBC Introducing showcase at Latitude 30 Thursday night, compered by my famous friend Steve Lamacq. However, this past weekend I was granted a far better opportunity to see the Brighton duo tear it up at intimate venue DC9, one of my favourite places to see up and coming bands play. I’m almost not sure if we are to call Royal Blood “up and coming”, as they’re already signed to Warner Brothers, which seems to suggest superstardom is just around the corner.
Opening hearing a couple of tracks from the opening band Spirit Animal online, I thought their sound would be a dreadful mismatch to Royal Blood’s ‘take no prisoners’ approach to hard rock. Oh, how very wrong I was. Upon reading the bill weeks ago, I was first questioning, why was a random New York City band come in Washington to play a one-off show with an English band they’ve never met? Turns out it wasn’t so random at all: the band are actually originally from DC and just have decamped to the Big Apple, presumably for a better shot at professional success. Second question, how does an analogue synth-playing band fit at all with the ethos of a band like Royal Blood? The Moog in question wasn’t so much ‘played’ was mostly banged by frontman Steve Cooper, who was otherwise mostly singing, jumping and showing his line dance moves (I’m being serious about this last one).
The connection sonically with Royal Blood is on their sometimes hard rocking guitar, delivered by epic beard-sporting bassist Paul Michel and lean and mean axe-playing Cal Stamp. I say sometimes, because this band changes direction from song to song, which keeps things extremely interesting, and they can get away with this, because Cooper is charismatic to pull this off and lead his troops to victory. Their general genre is rock, but they incorporate elements of funk, which make a lot of their music capable of inducing shape throwing. In no song of theirs is this funk more evident than set opener ‘Radio Brain’, which is a whole lot of fun while Cooper jumped around like a bull in a china shop. No, I lie. ‘Best One’, also on their EP ‘Kingdom Phylum’ (you’d think they named this to appeal to a biologist like myself), is another funkadelic storm. Spirit Animal, in essence, provided an upbeat audience warm-up for the headline set. The funk and catchiness of their songs will serve them well, and I foresee this band doing very well in the near future. (I’m not even considering the fact that Cooper and I went to rival county high schools.)
Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher certainly earn their keep. The two powerhouses come together to create such a commanding presence as Royal Blood live, I can’t imagine seeing anyone else gig in the near future who could rival what I witnessed Sunday night. I can’t emphasise enough how wowed I was by the sheer muscle of Kerr’s masterful bass playing and Thatcher’s bewildering drumming on display. I’m a bass player and when I wasn’t headbanging (yes, I am 5’ 3”, tiny and Chinese, stop laughing and don’t judge), I just stared, mesmerised as Kerr’s left hand moved fluidly up and down the neck of any one of his three guitars. If I am to keep this review clean, the only way I can describe Kerr’s playing, in a word, is awesome. If you don’t play bass (or any instrument for that matter) and have always thought that there is no way a bass player can dominate on melody on a song, think again.
Kerr is charismatic, but in a less conventional way: for the masses that make their way every summer to Download and Sonisphere, it seems he is the no-brainer choice for their next frontman hard rock god, wailing on his bass with monster riffs while also holding court with his seemingly out of control in their power yet (surprise!) melodic vocals. This is the difference – and it’s a massive one – that makes Royal Blood special and stand out from the rest of the hard rock pack. Indie music lovers who might not identify as headbangers won’t be able to stay away once the Brighton duo’s memorable choruses get stuck in their heads (see ‘Little Monster’, ‘Come On Over’).
But let’s turn back to the drums for a moment. I watched Thatcher pummel his drum kit into virtual submission, hitting it so hard that after just three songs in, he had to grab another pair of drum sticks, as there was nothing left of the ones he started with but dust and pathetic shards. (Pathetic shards he handed over, very kindly, to a grateful female fan before starting into the next song, I might add.) As he delivered his searing beat contribution to last song of the night ‘Out of the Black’ with rapid fire precision, I couldn’t help but smile and think that if the late John Bonham is watching, he is delighted that someone is continuing in his footsteps. After the show, I said hello to the guys and they were some of the sweetest musicians I’ve met. I hope, sincerely, that I have not ruined their street cred with this revelation; I only bring this up because they seem oblivious of what effect their music has on their fans.
You want to place a bet on the next biggest hard rock act to take over the world? Look no further. My money’s on Royal Blood. And it couldn’t happen to nicer guys.
After the cut: Spirit Animal and Royal Blood’s set lists.
Continue reading Live Review: Royal Blood with Spirit Animal at DC9, Washington DC – 20th July 2014
Barely 2 weeks after arriving in a new town, having relocated from the Gulf Coast of Florida to the Desert Southwest, I found myself becoming further acquainted with the western end of Interstate Highway 10, driving the 2 hours from Tucson to downtown Phoenix to see The Antlers at the Crescent Ballroom. It seemed fitting that my first trip to a new venue also involved two bands who were both relatively new to me. I discovered The Antlers at the recommendation of our own editor Mary, who asked me to review their recent album ‘Familiars’. (As usual, her sense of what might be my cup of tea was correct. Read the review here, if you haven’t already.) Support act Thus Owls, was completely unfamiliar, except for a quick glance at their Facebook page before I set out for the evening.
Montreal-based Thus Owls is a Canadian-Swedish hybrid based around husband and wife pair Erika and Simon Angell, who are, respectively, Swedish and Canadian. The band’s name is admittedly a bit of an enigma, and Erika Angell took several occasions to remind her audience of it, assuring us that it made sense in their minds when they chose it. Their sound is an appealing blend of fragile Scandinavian etherealism and weightier guitar rock, focused around Mrs. Angell’s delicately beautiful singing voice and flavored with dashes of interesting instrumentation, including one percussion instrument that I was unable to identify.
Thus Owls’ set consisted almost exclusively of songs from their newest album ‘Turning Rocks’, beginning with the title track. The only exception was the exquisite art song ‘I Weed My Garden’, from 2012 album ‘Harbours’, where Mrs. Angell took the opportunity to display her singing voice its fullest effect. She mentioned near the end of the set that the songs on ‘Turning Rocks’ were inspired by stories her grandmother had told her, specifically closing tracks ‘As Long As We Try A Little’ and ‘Smoke Like Birds’. (If you’re interested, ‘Turning Rocks’ was released worldwide in April on Secret City Records and is available on Spotify.)
The audience at the Crescent Ballroom had gradually filled in during Thus Owls’ eight songs, and where I had enjoyed a comfortable amount of personal space at the beginning of the show, I was packed in tight by the time The Antlers took the stage. The hipster college crowd was clearly more familiar with the headline act than I was, judging from the snippets of conversation I overheard, including one person’s self-proclaimed confession that she was “a sucker for a concept album”. She had well and truly come to the right place.
The Antlers opened their set with the opening 3 tracks from the current album ‘Familiars’. The expansive ‘Palace’ was quite literally breathtaking, and from there the band swept without pretense into ‘Doppelgänger’ and my personal favorite groove, ‘Hotel’. I was a little surprised to hear ‘Hotel’ so early in the set, but it turned out that ‘Familiars’ would be more than adequately represented later on.
The set touched on The Antlers’ back catalogue in the middle of the show, including ‘Drift Dive’ from the 2012 EP ‘Undersea’ and 3 songs from their breakthrough album ‘Hospice’: ‘Kettering’, ‘Sylvia’ and a particularly moving performance of ‘Epilogue’. The band played straight through most of the set list without banter, except for the occasional “thank you” from frontman Peter Silberman. They were very deliberate about the proceedings, apparently intending their set to be a continuous sort of Gesamtkunstwerk à la German Romantic composer Richard Wagner.
Unfortunately, the youthful audience were antsy to hear their favorite hit tunes, and a bit of heckling interrupted the flow. A beautiful flute interlude by touring member Kelly Pratt was marred by a punter’s mocking, and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci was enthusiastically complimented on his “amazing” hair. Silberman eventually gave in and acknowledged the distractions, sensing, I assume, that this was the only way to make them stop.
The set proper was symmetrically bookended by the 3 closing tracks from ‘Familiars’, played through without interruption and building to a massive climax at the end. It wasn’t really until this point that I noticed the intensity of Michael Lerner’s drumming, and I was struck again by the sensitivity of his performance in songs that could easily be overwhelmed by too much percussion. All four musicians created a spot-on delivery of the arrangements that worked so beautifully on the album, particularly the extensive brass, which was shared between Pratt and Cicci on either side of the stage.
After the aforementioned heckling, I wasn’t 100% sure that the band would play an encore, but as it turned out, the songs that the crowd had been yelling out for were reserved for last. ‘I Don’t Want Love’ and ‘Putting the Dog to Sleep’, both from 2011 LP ‘Burst Apart’, were the best received songs of the night, even inspiring a bit of singing along from the more dedicated fans at the front of the stage. I didn’t know the lyrics myself, but I found myself succumbing to Silberman’s darkly emotive singing and making a mental note to listen back to the older songs that had brought The Antlers here in the first place.
After the cut: the Antlers’ set list.
Continue reading Live Review: The Antlers with Thus Owls at Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ – 17th July 2014
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 18th July 2014 at 4:00 pm
I wasn’t sure where to put this on TGTF, as we usually don’t advertise one-off shows, but this was too funny not to share. Bombay Bicycle Club, who earlier this month made the possibly career-chafing comment that they might never play stadium shows again, seem to be doing some damage control.
They’ve gone to the trouble of producing this video to advertising their show at London’s Earl Court on the 13th of December looking back from 25 years into the future, enlisting the help of friends including their lighting tech Squib Swain (in 2039 as a rock historian) and Elbow‘s Guy Garvey, starring as their fan club president. It’s very Rutles-esque. Prepare yourself for belly-aching laughs and watch the video below. Note: avoid if you don’t want to see bass player Ed Nash’s bare behind.
And don’t be confused: tickets to their Earl’s Court show are on sale and are available now.
The first half of John’s Sonisphere 2014 review is here.
On a scout around the site, I stumbled upon the opening few bars of what looked like shaping up to be a storming set from The Bronx. Firstly, I’ve got tremendous respect for a band with the credentials they have, doing their own soundchecks. Small things, but, they weren’t being divas. It’s just cool, OK?
When they indicated they were finishing the tuning and the ‘CHECK, CHECK, CHECKING’, they immediately stormed into ‘Kill My Friends’ with a kind of aggression that turned the sweaty confines of the Bohemia Tent into an altogether more hostile environment. The tent was the perfect environment for their set (or from at least what I saw of it), as it allowed frontman Matt Caughthran to get really up close and personal with the crowd. However, if Caughthran got up close and personal with the now extremely unwashed masses of Sonisphere, then Trash Talk frontman Lee Spielman went that one step further.
The generation gap (and tolerance gap) between bands and their respective fans for acts like Trash Talk and The Bronx comparatively to their older compatriots Metallica and Mastodon was epitomised perfectly throughout Trash Talk’s set. Spielman and co.’s unique brand of vitriolic punk is abrasive and primarily there to offend and shock. So to go along with it, it seems only right that Trash Talk’s live set was a whirlwind of aggression, party drug references and moshing. For the entire set, I was stood next to two 50-year old(ish) metal veterans with Metallica and Iron Maiden logos emblazoned on their t-shirts. During the short bursts of rage-filled lyrics, a look of confusion and puzzlement came over the two gentlemen, as the frontman and bassist threw themselves around the stage in a frenzy. Trash Talk are at the forefront of a new brand of stoner metal, where the live shows are characterised by big, brash displays of bile and vitriol, a far cry from the showmanship of Bruce Dickinson and James Hetfield, but still impressive, if not relatively abrasive.
For most of the set Spielman spent his time amongst the crowd. The masses of snapback clad ‘yoofs’ swinging their arms and elbows around and rarely making any connection with anything but thin air. Trash Talk as a band were summed up perfectly by Spielman himself early on in the set: “Short, succinct and to the point”. With most of their songs played out at around 1-minute long, he wasn’t wrong. The circle pits were the most ferocious of the festival, as Spielman ventured far enough back to find me cowering near the sound desk.
Look, I got ‘all up in his grill’:
It was this sense of incredible crowd participation and the ceaseless energy of the band that made this set one of the highlights of the day for me. Whether their own brand of party-punk would go down well on the main stage at a festival is one thing. But in a crowded tent, Spielman bent the crowd to his will superbly. Which warmed me up for something I’ve been waiting around 6 years for.
Glastonbury the weekend previous was a huge milestone for the band. Arguably, the claims they had to ‘prove themselves’ at Glastonbury were completely ridiculous. They’re fucking Metallica and they’ve sold more albums than bloody Arcade Fire and Kasabian combined. Plus, name me a person who doesn’t lose all their shit during ‘Enter Sandman’ and I will go and buy a hat, then eat said hat. They answered the critics, sure. But, in doing so, they produced one of Glastonbury’s finest sets, ladened with as many singalong classics that any Chris Martin or Bono could bring.
So returning to a festival where the band will quite literally lauded as gods was going to hardly be daunting for Ulrich, Hetfield, Hammett, and Trujillo. To spice up their most recent tour and give them an excuse to globetrot without another album, Metallica are touring under the banner of ‘By Request’. Meaning we, the peasantry, get to pick the set. That means one thing. The set won’t be littered with random tracks from the deep, dark depths of ‘Death Magnetic’. Instead, it’ll be jam-packed to the brim with hit after hit.
So with the sun still shining down on Knebworth Park and after a sneak peak of ‘Glastallica’, the legendary four-piece strode on stage with a swagger unbeknown to any other act. They’ve conquered Glastonbury and they were about to defeat Sonisphere. Opener ‘Battery’ was met by a tirade of air drumming, which ceased about two and a half hours later when the band finally left the stage.
Every song was belted out with passion and the audience returned the favour by echoing every lyric back at them, from ‘Master of Puppets’, to ‘Whisky in the Jar’, which Hetfield admitted was his favourite song to play at the moment. The best reaction was reserved for ‘Enter Sandman’, as the crowd bounced in unison to the riff that has become synonymous with the band. ‘One’ was played out with a grandeur you don’t really expect at any metal show. However, for me it was ruined by some pillock next to me donning an Adolf Hitler moustache and adopting a ‘Sieg Heil’ pose throughout. Not funny in the slightest.
The gimmick for the day was that one of the songs was picked by the crowd – coming out on top by a whisker was ‘…And Justice for All’ and finishing off the set we had a rousing rendition of ‘Seek and Destroy’, which stopped any early leavers dead in their tracks so they could throw their horns in the Saturn Stage’s direction.
At Sonisphere, Metallica arrived with absolutely diddly shit to prove. Somehow though, they left proving something. So did the new guard, under the guise of Trash Talk, showing they can put on a show.
But, when it comes to stadium rock and getting a mammoth crowd going – leave it to the undisputed kings of thrash.
Well played boys. (10/10)
From the moment I arrived there was a definite air of nostalgia around the place. Sonisphere is undeniably a festival for a section of the gig-going public, that is too lethargic and stubborn to embrace the pace of change music is making at the moment. They lament the days ska disappeared (if it ever was) from the mainstream music agenda and don the t-shirts of band who are certainly not playing the festival, but they want you to know ‘THEY CARE!’
Underlining the wistful air of sentimentality were ageing veterans of ska Reel Big Fish. They’re a band who knows how to cater for the longingly nostalgic audience, and that’s by playing nothing but the hits. There was only one song from their newest release ‘Candy Coated Fury’, which consequently got the same kind of reaction from the crowd that you would expect if Aaron Barrett came out onstage dressed as Vladimir Putin and started spouting anti-Ukranian propaganda.
The rest of the set was a journey through the nether regions of the California six-piece’s assorted back catalogue, which finished somewhat triumphantly with their rather enjoyable cover of ‘Take On Me’ by a-ha. They received a lukewarm reaction from the crowd for the majority of their set, barring the final cover which provoked slightly more frivolity. (6/10) But, their inclusion on the line-up is one of the things which confuses me about Sonisphere as a festival.
It’s a metal festival, targeted at the black t-shirt wearing population who choose to grow their hair past their neck, swing it around them like a lasso at random times, seemingly to display their dominance as either the smelliest or sweatiest member of any crowd. So what is a ska band like Reel Big Fish doing there? And what have bands like All Time Low and Weezer been doing hanging around the likes of Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeth?
Somehow though, when it works, it works beautifully, as the Dropkick Murphys showed later on the Saturn Stage, emerging after a musical prelude that was almost long enough to rival the theatricality of ‘Glastallica’ the previous week. The run-up doesn’t serve to stifle the flow of the show though, as the seven-piece bound onstage like a bag of excitable puppies let loose in the kitchen when you’re chopping the veg for dinner. They aren’t bloody annoying like those puppies though (I’ve got a thing against dogs at the moment as I think I’m allergic, OK?).
Set opener ‘The Boys Are Back’ is flowing with the kind of good cheer you find at your local pub when it’s Irish night and the beer is flowing. Ken Casey has the pride his music enthuses rolling out of him in droves, whilst vocalist Al Barr looks every bit as mean as ever dressed in the kind of polo shirt and cap you see Frodo Baggins wearing in Green Street before he slogs someone right in the gob.
Barr is a marauding presence, as he paces menacingly along the front of the stage, stirring the crowd into a frenzied whirlpool. It’s singalong anthem after singalong anthem from the Massachusetts homeboys. My personal highlight had to be a rip-roaring cover of the traditional folk number ‘Black Velvet Band’, which was furnished with a gloss of punk bite. The audience was joined in unison for the penultimate tune, as they covered AC/DC’s classic ‘Dirty Deeds Done Cheap’, before skipping of the stage to one of their classics, ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’.
This all proved to me that you didn’t need to be a roaring, denim jacket wearing, Satan-worshiping metal band to fit in at Sonisphere. You were welcomed with open arms as long as your music had a bit of an edge to it. Dropkick Murphys had that in spades and left Knebworth Park as champions, after a rabble-rousing set that William Wallace himself would have been proud of. (10/10)
Sandwiched in between Reel Big Fish and Dropkick Murphys are titans of sludge, Mastodon, who troop through a set with just enough of their classics to justify a good outing for songs from their new record ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’. ‘Chimes at Midnight’, ’High Road’ and ‘The Motherload’ sit unobtrusively next to tracks like ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Blasteroid’, as the band take you away to a starry-skied world with their thudding, yet entirely melodic tunes.
At the helm, Troy Sanders conducted the orchestra of majesty behind him, whilst still grasping the 30,000 strong audience within the palm of his hand, from up high on the Saturn Stage. The titanic melodies that Mastodon have made their trademark over the past decade soared out over the fields of Knebworth, drawing in a considerable crowd. They’re the kind of outfit that the smaller bands who graced the weekend’s line-up can watch slam out a set of huge tunes and give them the will to aspire to play higher on the bill. (8/10)
By comparison on the same Stage, Alice in Chains produced an utterly flaccid performance, devoid of any real showmanship. They bumbled through a set which catered for anyone wanting to hear the hits, as ‘Man in the Box’ and ‘Them Bones’ received an airing. For a band gracing the upper echelons of rock royalty, the crowd could most definitely have expected something more than the dour showing they got from the titans of grunge.
Perhaps with all the line-up changes William DuVall and co. have gone and lost what made them so brilliant to watch. Or maybe the four-piece couldn’t handle the almost unbearable rays of the sun beating down from high upon the Saturn Stage. (5/10)
Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of John’s review of Sonisphere 2014.
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